My views on monarchy are, well, that there shouldn’t be one in my country, nor should there be any in the world. This post by Ethan Zuckerman goes into three levels of reaction around the death of Elizabeth II, but more interestingly explains his thinking behind a new experimental course he’s running this semester.
As I thought through the hundreds of ideas I wanted to share over the course of twenty-something lectures, I’ve centered on three core concepts I want to try and get across. The first is simple: democracy requires a robust and healthy public sphere, and American democracy was designed with that public sphere as a core component.
Second – and this one has taken me more time to understand – the public sphere includes at least three components: a way of knowing what’s going on in the world (news), a space for discussing public life, and whatever precursors allow individuals to participate in these discussions. For Habermas’s public sphere, those precursors included being male, wealthy, white, urban and literate… hence the need for Nancy Fraser’s recognition of subaltern counterpublics. Public schooling and libraries are anchored in the idea of enabling people to participate in the public sphere.
The third idea is that as technology and economic models change, all three of these components – the nature of news, discourse, and access – change as well. The obvious change we’re focused on is the displacement of a broadcast public sphere by a highly participatory digital public sphere, but we can see previous moments of upheaval: the rise of mass media with the penny press, the rise of propaganda as broadcast media puts increased control of the public sphere in the hands of corporations and governments.